Guardbot - Part 1
The start of a long journey
The history of the Gargantor Engineering Collective is a classic story of genius, hard work, the conquest of galactic commerce, ambition, greed, cost-cutting, constant corporate restructuring, and eventual failure. It is still used in many universities and business schools as a textbook example of how to build a great empire and then destroy it by getting far too big for your space boots.
This story begins with an event so tiny that it doesn’t feature in any Gargantor histories, biographies, interviews, documentaries, court transcripts, serialisations, real-life dramas or works of complete fiction (usually referred to as Annual Reports). After all, who would bother writing about a container that was lost in transit?
On the day in question, 239A in the year of Larry, over 2000 freighters were loaded at each of Gargantor’s seven hundred distribution stations. Their cargo consisted almost entirely of products that the galactic citizenry didn’t need but bought anyway.
Ointments and unguents to make the green of your eyeballs even greener. Miracle towels that keep you moist no matter what temperature your volcano rises to. These products, and millions more, were being loaded and flown to every point of the galaxy in the cheapest spacecraft money could hire.
In amongst this vast array of useless but cleverly marketed things was a small container of several billion guardbot kits.
Guardbots were one of the first products ever made by the Gargantor Engineering Collective and would later be recorded in the report from Gargantor’s corporate liquidators, one of their best. As far as anyone could tell, the guardbot line was very profitable until it was inexplicably killed off by short-sighted executive hubris.
Hubris is a great word; if you don’t know what it means, you should look it up, particularly if you plan on reading the history of the Gargantor Engineering Collective because it turns up there a lot.
Guardbots are a no-nonsense little robot that guards things. If they find something alarming, they alert you. That’s it, simple. In Earth terms, the Roman Empire used geese for a very similar purpose. Guardbots lay fewer eggs than geese, but they also don’t turn as a flock and chase you screaming through the garrison holding the underpants you were innocently washing in their pond while the rest of your legionnaire friends laugh at you. In a poll of legionnaires serving under Antoninus Pius, nearly 90% preferred guardbots to geese. If the Gargantor Marketing Department hadn’t ceased to exist millions of years previously, they definitely would have used that statistic.
On day 239A in the year of Larry, the shipment of guardbots that we are interested in was loaded into a rather disreputable-looking Toothbreaker class freighter. Toothbreakers are large flying cubes. They’re terribly ugly, not even remotely reliable, utterly unsafe for any live cargo, and only able to be crewed by gelatinous races that don’t mind being squashed flat every now and again.
Captain Y and Co-pilot Z performed as many pre-flight checks as they were paid for; none. Aiming their ship at the nearest of the three suns, they took off. The Toothbreaker was surprisingly fast for a flying cube, disappearing from sight long before the last freighter part finished bouncing across the launchpad.
Captain Y pulled a hard right at the first sun, squashing both itself and the Co-pilot flat. In the cargo hold below, the violent manoeuvre ripped loose about a third of the freighter’s barely secured cargo and jettisoned it out a side hatch that had fallen off years ago.
Glancing at a cracked monitor, Captain Y checked to make sure that the loud banging hadn’t dropped the freight loss meter too far below the ‘we’re not getting paid’ line. The meter showed cargo status about halfway between ‘can’t afford fuel to get back’ and ‘sell the Co-pilot to slave trader’, not Y’s worst reading at this point in the journey by a long shot. Satisfied, Y pointed the Toothbreaker at its destination and accelerated.
And that is how a container load of Gargantor Engineering Collective Guardbots (Standard edition, multiple colours) found themselves to be space flotsam on the edge of a busy intergalactic trade route.
End of Guardbot Part 1
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